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Wednesday, August 10, 2022

A Decade Of Racial Equity, Now Outcomes

By Dr. Brent Jones, Superintendent Seattle Public Schools  

Seattle Public Schools (SPS) has been on the journey to achieve equity for more than a decade. Since 2012, we are proudly the second school district in the nation to have a policy ensuring educational and racial equity. Our leaders are well experienced in implementing strategies, initiatives, and programs to advance the concept. Seattle Excellence, SPS’ current strategic plan, is centered on racial equity, specifically targeting higher outcomes for our African-American male learners.

We are excited about improving on our plan. SPS is in the process of adopting a new governance model that focuses the entire educational system on putting students and student outcomes at the core of every decision. Our goal is to meet and exceed learning outcomes. Equity plans without real results are merely aspirational and simply do not cut it.

In our earliest equity work, we strived for our Black boys and teens to feel welcomed and have a sense of belonging and equal participation. Now, we are not only committed to creating healthy environments, but also to ensuring that all efforts lead to powerful learning for these young men. We are moving into a phase of accountability where we are consistently monitoring progress with great intention. To aide in our success, we are also actively seeking clarity and building collaboration between the School Board, which represents our community, and the Superintendent’s Office, which represents schools and staff. This model is known as Student Outcome Focused Governance and has potential to be catalytic. When done right, the community can be assured that its values are being championed by the board, and the superintendent is carrying out those values. Accordingly, my job as Superintendent is to lead using the goals and guardrails outlined in the strategic plan. Goals are what students know and can do. Guardrails are the conditions in which the Superintendent, and by extension, schools, can achieve those goals.

So, what’s the big deal? Why is this important? The big deal is that our families and students’ voices will be engaged and represented by the School Board membership. Further, SPS is clearly narrowing our focus to three essential priorities (goals) – reading, math and college and career readiness. As a community, you can expect consistency as well as an easy way to monitor progress on the matters that you have deemed as most important. Now, instead of trying to find evidence of progress toward achieving equity, we are making it plain. Here is what you can expect:

On his SPS journey, a young Brent will read proficiently by 3rd grade, meet and exceed 7th grade math standards, earn HS credits, and take, at minimum, one advanced course in high school. The adults teaching him will act in an anti-racist manner; he will feel welcome and safe in his schools, and he will participate in school programs that have prioritized racial equity in their design. Should adjustments be needed, young Brent will experience restorative alternatives to punishment that are culturally responsive and socially and emotionally supportive. Throughout his academic journey, his family will also be engaged and have influence on major initiatives before they are launched.

I am proud to lead us through this time of uncertainty and bring the focus into the future of excellence. My job is to create the conditions for our students to thrive. As we celebrate Juneteenth, I strive to keep the ancestors’ dreams of freedom, equity, and opportunity alive in my space of influence – public education. My commitment is to ensure our students are Seattle Ready!

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